SEARSPORT, Maine — The Searsport District High School class of 2012 only has a few more days together before going their separate ways, but the seniors are making them count.
On Friday, the 30 or so graduating seniors spent one of those days packing thousands of pounds of books into cardboard boxes, wrapping them in plastic and getting them ready to be picked up by a national book drive organization.
The students’ efforts have been noticed. In sheer numbers of books collected, the senior class is in the top 10 of 400 drives happening right now around the country for the Worldwide Book Drive, a Utah-based philanthropic business that aims to get books to needy people.
“I’m really proud of the community,” said Martha Stamp, a special education teacher and senior class advisor. “It’s not like Stockton Springs and Frankfort and Searsport have a ton of money. I don’t know where the books came from. They just kept coming and coming and coming.”
Each senior participated in the book drive, which was a mandatory service requirement for graduation. Some set up boxes at places including the post office, Tozier’s Family Market in Searsport and Belfast Area High School. Students took home a newsletter that requested books.
And the response was amazing, Stamp and the students said. People cleared out their bookshelves, dropping off enough children’s books, bodice-ripping romance novels, old encyclopedias and even a Richard Simmons biography to fill 100 boxes. That’s between 4,000 and 5,000 pounds of books, Stamp estimated.
Emily Gillotti, 17, of Searsport said that the success of the book drive reflects well upon her graduating class.
“I think it says that we’re dedicated,” she said. “When we want to do something, we get it done.”
Once the books are picked up by Worldwide Book Drive, most will be donated to qualified schools, inner-city community centers, international development organizations and other community outreach entities, according to the company’s website.
About 6 percent will be sold for revenue to cover the expenses of collecting, warehousing, sorting, processing and recycling the books.
Stamp said that she hopes future graduating classes will continue the book drive project, which she characterized as unusually successful.
“We have not had a great track record in raising money,” she said of previous senior efforts. “They’re not known for their organization, this group. But if you ask them to do something, they do it. They did a great job. I’m proud of them.”
Hannah Betit, 18, of Belfast is a senior at Searsport District High School.
“I think it’s a really nice thing,” she said of the book drive. “I think it’s awesome that we’re doing something like this. It can really make a difference. It’s bringing the communities together.”